It is so hard to wait.

Watching a loved one in pain or in crisis, waiting desperately for a turn for the better.

When you’ve done everything you could do, prayed every prayer, cried every tear.

When there’s nothing to do but wait.

Like Miriam, waiting on her brother Moses.

She had just seen the casket holding her precious baby brother float away down the Nile. And she stood waiting. “His sister stood from afar, to know what would happen with him.”1

The birth of Moses, in large part, was due to Miriam. The Midrash2 relates that her parents, Amram and Yocheved, had separated. What use was there to bring more children into the world when the Egyptian enslavement was so bitter, when all newborn baby boys had been condemned to death by being cast into the Nile? And what Amram did, the rest of the Jewish people followed.

Miriam, only 5 years old, admonished her father. “Your decree is worse than Pharaoh’s! He decreed only on the boys, but your decree is on the girls as well!” She promised her parents that if they remarried, they would be blessed with a child who would redeem the people of Israel.

When Yocheved placed baby Moses in the river to escape Pharaoh’s cruel decree, Amram tapped Miriam on the head, saying, “What’s with your prophecy now, Miriam?”

And Miriam stood behind the reeds, waiting. Not in horror, not in despair, but in expectation. What would be of her prophecy?

And because she was there waiting, she witnessed Pharaoh’s daughter, Batya, lift Moses out of the water. She saw Moses refuse to suckle from the Egyptian nursemaids. And because she was right there, waiting, she was able to offer Batya the services of a Jewish nursemaid—her own mother.

Was it a miracle that baby Moses was saved to grow up to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt? It was a miracle all right, but a very natural sort of miracle. Batya spotted the baby and lifted him out, Miriam noticing and calling her mother—nothing supernatural about any of these events. But none of this would have happened without Miriam being on the spot, waiting.

We Jews know what it means to wait; we’ve been doing that for a long time. And we haven’t been waiting idly. We’ve done a lot of good work, too—prayers, Torah study, good deeds, acts of kindness. But we’ve been waiting for so long, and it’s hard to wait anymore. It’s natural for bitterness to set in. This exile has been brutal. So much suffering and pain.

But Miriam shows us how to wait. With bitterness over our suffering but not with despair. Nobody felt the exile more deeply than Miriam. It is reflected in her name, from the Hebrew root of mar, bitter. Yet despite her pain, Miriam crafted tambourines in Egypt. She had no doubt that her prophecy would be fulfilled, their suffering would end, and they would dance one day.3 After their liberation, she carried those tambourines into the desert, and led the Jewish women in song and dance.

As we wait for our universal and personal redemption—in whatever area it may be—we derive strength from Miriam. Just as she stood by her brother’s side, she stands by our side as well, instilling us with courage and hope. And with her power, we will merit to see the redemption, and we will be the first to celebrate.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 13 and 15 Shevat, 5752.)